“The most powerful [people] don’t conquer their dysfunctions, quirks and potentially embarrassing insecurities. They seamlessly integrate them to make an impact on the world.” -Peter Bregman, 18 Minutes: Find Your Focus, Master Distraction, and Get the Right Things Done
We spend so much time, money and energy trying to improve ourselves. The beginning of every new year ushers in a business boom for the self-help, exercise, and fitness industries. Improvement efforts – both internal and external – are noble efforts indeed. If we are going to invest our hard-earned money, our limited time and our finite energy into an endeavor, shouldn’t we do our due diligence to make sure it is worth that trifecta of investment?
No one likes to explore weakness. We are conditioned at a very young age to value strengths, focus on what we’re good at, highlight our talents. Much like we see the upside of both day and night, we must explore the upside of both our weaknesses AND our strengths. Not with the intention of “strengthening” our weaknesses…there’s a boatload of research out there that tells us how ineffective that is (click here for research from Marcus Buckingham, pioneer of strengths-based management). We must explore our weaknesses with the mindset of USING them to create greater success rather than avoiding them on the road to success.
If we only identify our weaknesses and focus on eliminating them (or minimizing them), we might just be trying to change the very thing that will bring us the happiness we so desperately crave. Identifying a part of ourselves and labeling it “wrong” or “bad” creates a black hole in our being that subconsciously nags at our sense of wellness and worthiness. It’s the place where the “yea, but” lives. Every success, every compliment is colored a little greyer because of that place where we hide our weaknesses.
I am a notorious procrastinator. At least that’s how I used to talk about myself. Labeling myself lazy, unfocused, wishy-washy. Until, in an effort to eliminate my weakness, I read a bunch on procrastination. Of course there’s all the stuff on reducing distractions like turning off wifi, closing your office door, minimize “necessary” distractions, schedule time blocks to do emails and answer calls…I could go on! I'm not saying these don't work. It wasn't until I started looking deeper at the cause of my procrastination, why I couldn’t seem to pull the trigger sometimes, that things started to make more sense. Sure, I found some opportunities to be effective but what I also found was that procrastination is my superpower too.
I am no longer a "lazy, unfocused, wishy-washy procrastinator." I am a deep thinker. Absolutely there is a danger of falling into the “paralysis by analysis” trap so I make sure I set myself up for successful procrastination. It was a loooong adjustment to ensure (i.e. REMEMBER) to schedule more time for certain tasks or meetings. It’s a bit of a pain but I know when I meet with someone or present in front of a group, I need to schedule some rumination time. It is absolutely mission critical to my endeavors. It (gasp!) ADDS MORE TIME to my day, minutes-wise at least. BUT! It SAVES so many more hours and days by focusing my “procrastination” i.e. processing/rumination time, into convenient and relevant time slots. If I choose not to do it purposefully, you can bet I will do it subconsciously. Then NOTHING gets done and I fall into the death spiral of woulda-coulda-shoulda.
An interesting and critical byproduct of embracing this weakness and utilizing it to create more productivity is that I have gotten 100% better at making decisions. Knowing when to say "no" has created greater satisfaction and success, even saying "no" to projects I would love, love, love to say "yes" to.